gallery Salt's Spy Style
Angelina Jolie's character in the new thriller Salt is the latest in a long and glamorous tradition of spies, both on-screen and off. Stephanie LaCava on the chic history of secret-agent style. Plus, VIEW OUR GALLERY of well-dressed spies.
Lily Cole at Hermes show
"I could definitely kick ass in leather," says Lily Cole of the secret agent-inspired look she wore in the fall 2010 Hermes show.
Angelina Jolie in Salt
Angelina Jolie in Loro Piana camel coat, cashmere beanie and Levi's jeans.
Josephine Baker wrote secret messages in invisible ink on her sheet music. "Everyone wanted to be around La Baker. She was a favorite at embassy parties." says Linda McCarthy, founder of the CIA Museum. "Who goes to embassy parties? Spies."
The beautiful Hedy Lamarr's secret agent role was less espionage and more engineering technology. With George Antheil, Lamarr discovered Secret Communications System, today known as spread-spectrum technology. During WW II, the system was designed so the Germans couldn't intercept the signals for Allied torpedoes. Today, it's the basis for Wi-Fi and cellular phones. "In many respects, Lamarr wasn't taken seriously as she was regarded as arm candy--but the woman had brains!" says McCarthy. "She had such a reputation as a screen siren that it worked to her disadvantage in promoting her discovery."
"She had a certain presence about her. Not only was her height an obvious draw, but she was gregarious," says McCarthy of the 6-ft. tall Julia Child, who worked for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the CIA's predecessor). "She brought people to her. That's what you need in the fold: people you gravitate to and trust."
John Kobal Foundation / Getty Images,John Kobal Foundation Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich was a real-life wartime agent who created propaganda recordings to encourage Germans to drop arms, as well as entertaining Allied troops at the Front. Says McCarthy, "Even in army fatigues, this woman had an aura."
"She took on the dowager look--the antithesis of her natural grace--in order to deceive the Germans in occupied France," says McCarthy of Virginia Hall's approach to espionage. It was dressed as a French milkmaid in indigenous linens and woolen skirts, that Hall was able to overhear classified information.
Library of Congress / AP Photo, Harriet Tubman
"Unbeknownst to most people, she was a master of disguise, and a lot of it started with her wardrobe," says McCarthy of Harriet Tubman. "She was always careful to choose the proper clothing indigenous to the mission. No matter where they put her, she knew how to dress."
Jacques Brinon / AP Photo,JACQUES BRINON Viktor and Rolf
Says Viktor and Rolf of their spy-worthy fall collection, "The hair and makeup of our show was sunglasses and a cap, very anonymous and urban."
"These pieces are strong, but malleable. You are able to build a new look every time you wear one," says Mabille of his collection, which would prove perfect for a certain sort of secret agent.
Jemal Countess / Getty Images,Jemal Countess Vera Wang
The separates from Wang's fall 2010 show would work for the transitional dressing required of a spy on the run.
Jim Young / Reuters,© Jim Young / Reuters Valerie Plame
Valerie Plame was one of the references for Edwards in
Salt. "She wore little shift dresses and simple, clean suits in neutrals. It's very conservative in D.C.," says costume designer Sarah Edwards. The vision for Evelyn Salt was also loosely based on a current CIA operative. "She was pretty, athletic, and blond," Edwards says of the woman in her late 20s who was the model for the character. Anna Chapman
Her red hair and revealing style became hallmarks referred to in the press when discussing the 28 year old accused of espionage.
During the Civil War, women would hide children under their hooped skirts as messengers. While the female operative acted as a diversionary tactic, the child could slip out to make a delivery. This deception technique may have been used by spies like Belle Boyd or Elizabeth Van Lew.